Placed back-to-back in the heart of the Gibault Hawks batting order, senior Chandler Purcell and junior Jordan McFarland have been driving the team’s offensive bus for most of the season.
That bus has been making plenty of trips around the bases since the Hawks (14-10) have reached double-digit run production 14 times in 24 games. Gibault has scored seven or more runs in a remarkable 20 of 24 games.
“It’s been one of those years where there’s been a lot of offense in our games,” Gibault coach Andy Skaer said. “We knew going in that our pitching might get roughed up every once in a while and we’d have to try to outscore teams.”
That hasn’t been an issue on many occasions thanks to the hot bats of Purcell and McFarland.
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Headed to Division II Quincy University, Purcell entered Monday hitting .462 with nine doubles, two triples, two home runs and 27 RBIs. Committed to Division I Arkansas prior to his junior year, McFarland is riding a .433 average that includes six home runs and 31 RBIs along with four doubles and four triples.
The six homers ties McFarland, currently playing third base and the outfield, for the St. Louis area lead.
The pair have combined to strike out just 11 times in 172 plate appearances, including four by Purcell. With Purcell hitting second and McFarland third, the Hawks will take their chances if someone tries to pitch around them.
“We have seen it at times where teams definitely don’t try to intentionally walk Jordan, but pitch around him,” Skaer said. “He’s been pretty consistent. He takes what the pitcher gives him most of the time and doesn’t try to do too much.”
In less than three full seasons on the varsity, McFarland has 17 home runs and 83 RBIs. Skaer has noticed a subtle difference this season, too.
“It’s just his continued maturation as a hitter, understanding what pitchers are going to give him,” Skaer said. “He’s using that and not trying to do too much.”
Skaer credited Purcell’s ability to add strength in the offseason for pushing his numbers skyward.
“He’s a guy who has always put the time in and worked at it to make himself better,” Skaer said of his senior three-year starter and second baseman.” The biggest thing with Chandler between last year and this year is he’s gotten in the weight room and is a lot stronger physically. He’s able to drive the ball in the gaps more and has gotten a couple to sneak out.”
Gibault is also getting solid production from senior catcher-outfielder Alec Skaer (.417, five doubles, 18 RBIs), Tyler Brinkmann (.385, 14 RBIs), sophomore Trevor Davis (.368, 20 RBIs), senior Dylan McCoy (.355, 17 RBIs) and Ethan Shields (.338, 15 RBIs).
Davis, a sophomore right-hander, owns three of the Hawks’ top victories with wins over Belleville East, Wesclin and CBC. He is 4-2 with a 4.16 ERA while McCoy (3-3) is second in innings.
Davis has created plenty of college sports options thanks to strong performances as a soccer goalkeeper and becoming one of Gibault’s top basketball players.
“We’ve talked to him about his college prospects and he said no matter what he decides to do he wants to keep playing all three sports (at Gibault),” Skaer said. “At a school our size we need those guys playing everything.”
Leaders of the stat pack
The metro-east has three players still hitting over .500 at this late stage of the season, led by Columbia junior Cameron Touchette and his ridiculous .629 average (39-for-62).
Touchette has piled up 10 doubles, two homers and 16 RBIs along with 26 stolen bases and 24 runs scored.
Also sitting on some massive statistics are Freeburg junior catcher Keegan Baxmeyer (.576, six doubles, three homers, 17 RBIs) and Dupo senior Austin Francis (.500, seven doubles, two triples, one homer, 16 RBIs).
When it comes to finding the top two-way players in the area, it’s an elite class of two — Alton senior left-hander Bryan Hudson and O’Fallon junior lefty Bradley Harrison.
Headed to Missouri with the potential of being a top-10 round draft pick by a major league team thanks to a fastball that has been clocked at 92 mph and sharp-breaking curve, Hudson is the St. Louis area leader in RBIs, triples, pitching strikeouts and shutouts.
At the plate he’s hitting .479 with seven doubles, six triples, four homers and 38 RBIs. Even more impressive are the 6-foot-8 senior lefty’s pitching statistics, which include a 7-1 record, 0.50 ERA and 101 strikeouts in just 42 1/3 innings.
Hudson is averaging 16.7 strikeouts per game, a total most pitchers can only hope to reach one or twice in their career.
Putting the ‘o’ in shutout
The Edwardsville Tigers (23-1) don’t just have a pitching staff this season, they have an assembly line of quality arms that had produced shutouts in one-third of their 24 games before Monday.
That’s eight shutouts in 24 games from a mound staff that has limited the opposition to one run or fewer an incredible 17 times.
Of the Tigers’ six pitchers working at least 10 innings or more, five of them have ERA’s of 0.89 or lower. The list includes seniors Aaron Jackson (5-0, 0.24 ERA), Daniel Lloyd (4-0, 0.24), and Chris Robinson (4-0, 0.31 ERA) and juniors Tyler Hosto (3-0, 0.49 ERA) and Jake Garella (3-0, 0.89 ERA).
News-Democrat High School Baseball Rankings
Rankings for metro-east teams; voting by area coaches and News-Democrat staff. First-place votes are in parentheses, records through Sunday.
Large school rankings (Class 3A-4A)
Also receiving votes: Freeburg (19-2), Highland (16-8), Mascoutah (15-10), Columbia (14-5)
Small school rankings (Class 1A-2A)
Also receiving votes: Carlyle (15-10), Central (11-10), Valmeyer (14-12), New Athens (12-11)